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Nimali’s Journey: Following My Dreams with Acquired Brain Injury

Published: 19 Jun 2017

In early 2005, I was diagnosed with a viral flu. It went away after treatment in Mater Children’s Hospital but there were some post virus symptoms such as imbalance in walking, tiredness, and ongoing drowsiness. I went to see different doctors and a physiotherapist, where I had CT scans, blood tests but no diagnosis: initial tests showed nothing.

Then, in May 2005, I had an MRI which showed that I had developed Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), an auto-immune disease. It affected the frontal lobe of my brain. I was attending the final years of my high school at the time. I had to stay in Mater Hospital for about 4-5 months in 2015.

Even though I recovered from the disease, it had affected my life. It affected my motivation, attention, and caused me fatigue.  My handwriting skills have been reduced.

However, I still continued to work on my High School Certificate, a number of TAFE courses towards University admission, and finally I was able to obtain an Associate Degree in Business & International Tourism at Southern Cross University. Recently, I have completed a medical terminology course and currently enrolled in a Clinical Coding course.

During the last 10-12 years, my family, friends, REDinc. and Southern Cross University Student Support Services helped me to go through my life and achievements.  However, as I could not perform the way I wanted to (I used to excel at sports and my school studies.  I used to be a sprinter and gymnast) as well as what was expected from me.  It was a  really challenging period for me. I believe the only reason I was able to go through this period and come out the other side still with a cheerful attitude about life was because of who I surrounded myself with. I found I would always come in contact with people who saw how vulnerable I was and saw an opportunity to take advantage. Lucky for me my family and friends were very good in spotting that and steer me in the right direction until I was mentally well enough to deal with those situations adequately.

My main challenges now include fatigue, impulsiveness, managing my expenses, motivational issues, and dealing with relationships. However, I think I am doing much better in addressing those issues thanks to my family, friends and support from organisations such as REDinc.

I would say that I have managed to overcome many of my challenges. You can overcome most of your issues by keeping your dreams alive. Sometimes, I get frustrated as I do not see the outcome as quickly as I expected but you have to think you have come this far and have been progressing well. You have to think that the phase of the journey is slow but you are getting there progressively. Positive thinking is the key to go forward.

Here is how I worked on overcoming the challenges of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I:

  • Sought support
  • Stayed determined (this was a challenge, my father was very good at keeping me on track and motivating me, reminding me of what is important.)
  • Always work on something to look forward to
  • Always have a goal to work towards.

My current working environment at REDinc. is really interesting and challenging. In addition to my educational background in tourism and business management, I have very good people skills and computer knowledge. At REDinc. I use my background expertise in tourism and marketing program which fits really well with my ambitions.

My aspirations are to:

  • Have a professional job
  • Live independently
  • Live a ‘normal life’
  • Have good control of my finances.

A big challenge for me as of now is finding employment when I have no experience as I was sick and in hospital from 16 to 18 years of age; so I missed a lot of my opportunities to gain relevant experience.

I am currently doing work experience with REDinc.’s Marketing Communications Manager which is invaluable experience in my desired field of work.

More coming soon from Nimali!